When I was young I remember our telephones being on a party line. The old party line connected two or more subscribers to the same telephone circuit. You sometimes had to wait and make your call when others were not on the line. Kids, with the inclination to snoop, could listen in on the conversations of others. Of course, I would never have been guilty of such a thing myself!
The old party line for telephones is long gone. In politics the party line is very much alive. The political party line defines the expected stance of a particular party. Is there a party line among churches of Christ as well?
A chapel speaker at the FHU lectures a few years ago cited some in the church for holding to “the party line” on certain issues. He said, “When preachers and elders choose to stay with the party line for fear of being castigated or ostracized, as opposed to candidly looking at the evidence, something is woefully wrong” (Behold the Lamb: John’s Gospel of Belief, p. 34). In his oral presentation, and in his chapter in the lectureship book, he mentioned a number of issues such as hand clapping, instrumental music in the worship, the Holy Spirit, marriage-divorce and remarriage and baptism, suggesting that the honest student will ignore “the party line” and “follow truth wherever it takes them!” (p. 34).
I’m just a little curious – what is the church’s party line? What is the party line on the issues that are here mentioned? I have preached on the issue of hand clapping in worship. Is there a church party line position on this, or is there simply truth as opposed to error? I have preached on instrumental music in the worship. Is there a church party line position on this, or is there simply truth as opposed to error? I have preached on matters related to the Holy Spirit. Is there a church party line position on this, or is there simply truth as opposed to error? I have preached marriage-divorce and remarriage. Is there a church party line position on this, or is there simply truth as opposed to error? I have preached on baptism. Is there a church party line position on this, or is there simply truth as opposed to error? I am not opposed to studying and re-studying any issue. I am opposed, however, to the idea that we can “unearth some truth” that is new under the sun, and that might send our previous convictions plummeting into a doctrinal tailspin.
This is sometimes done by elderships that announce that they have spent months restudying the direct scriptural references as they relate to instrumental music in the worship. They, then, feel justified in arriving at the conclusion that there is no Biblical prohibition to the use of instruments in worship. Have such elders unearthed “some truth” that consequently led to their shift in conviction? Or, have they merely implemented a “fresh approach” (new hermeneutics) that allows them to articulate a far less controversial stance for the congregation under their oversight, thus permitting unauthorized innovations for worship? What about those who accept unscriptural baptism, thus eradicating all boundaries of fellowship? Have they unearthed some truth that we did not previously know about that has broadened their horizons? Is it the church party line to insist that immersion is still for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38), or is it simply the truth?
by Dennis Gulledge